The Higher the Horse: Getting My Car Serviced



Neighborhood: Manhattan

A few weeks ago, I took my car in for an annual servicing. 

The dealership where I bring my car is on the far West Side of Manhattan. It’s a desolate area, so the most sensible option is to wait while the servicing is done. The last time I had brought it in, I was back on the road in about an hour and a half. I expected this time would be no different. I pulled in to the service area for my 10 AM appointment and told Alex, the guy who’d be handling my servicing, that I’d wait for the car. Alex said that they were very busy and that it would be at least two hours before the car was ready. I made the face I have reserved for these situations, muttered something and headed off to try to make the best of the situation.

For several hours I wandered about, all while steeling myself for what I expected would be my disappointment when I returned to get my car. Sure enough, when I went in to find out if my car was ready, Alex told me that it would be another hour or so before I could get it. I decided I’d do my steaming in the showroom where I’m sure my vacant serial-killer stare put a dent in their sales.

About an hour and a half later, Alex summoned me to his office where he was completing my paper work while my car was being washed prior to it being returning to me. I was now approaching the four-hour mark of waiting. As Alex had his head down trying to avoid my gaze, I went over to him and in a measured tone asked, “Do you ever go to your doctor’s office and find that you have a huge wait because your doctor has made four appointments for the same time? Don’t you just hate that?” For the first time, Alex broke character and smiled and said that he did. “Me too. That’s why I don’t go to those doctors anymore!” I continued, “So why would you make an appointment with me that you obviously couldn’t keep?”

This is when things got interesting. Alex said it wasn’t that he had overbooked his schedule; it was that a number of unscheduled customers had shown up and needed work done on their cars. I couldn’t believe what he had innocently just said. Outraged, I shouted, “Are you serious! So the appointment I made has no consequence whatsoever since anyone can just show up and take my spot? Why should I even bother making an appointment?” 

Now, I have to explain, there is a palpable pleasure I take in the self-righteousness I feel in these situations. As my girlfriend has pointed out to me (in the rare instance of our having a disagreement), I like to get on my high horse. And she’s absolutely right. In fact, the higher the horse is, the happier I am. 

In any event, as I was venting, the service manager heard me and came out to say I was absolutely right and that they would review their policy. He promised me that the “next time” I brought my car in I should see ask to see him to make sure that this didn’t happen again.

As is common nowadays, I got an email a few days later asking me to rate my experience at the dealership. Uncharacteristically (my indignation usually has a shelf life of just a few hours), I took the time to write a brief summary of my unhappiness with the experience. This apparently had an impact. The next day, I got an email from the service manager saying that because of my complaint they had changed their policy and that customers with appointments would henceforth be given priority. And as recompense for my aggravation, they offered me a free mini-detailing for my car.

When I called to make arrangements for the detailing I was told that I couldn’t make a specific appointment for a detailing and that I should just come in. I asked how long I’d have to wait. At that point, the service appointment person I was talking with explained that ordinarily they would just insert me into their service day. But because of a new policy, I’d have to wait until all the customers with appointments were handled first. There’s something about that I find so . . . so. . . so, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yes, so ironic!


Neil Stein is the owner of a real estate office in Park Slope. He is also a writer who is the sole correspondent for the blog:

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